As many of you know, I am a full-time yoga teacher. I’ve been teaching since 2009 and estimate about 17-20 classes a week. I absolutely LOVE teaching yoga. It took me a few corporate gigs, working for an insane human being, sucking at sales and a few months on unemployment that eventually led me to this industry, one which I am incredibly grateful to be working in. Growing up I wanted to be a businesswoman or in the entertainment industry. I felt a lifestyle and career of nonstop meetings, phone calls, emails, contracts and lots of dollar signs was calling my name. Alas, my path took me in a completely different direction. On the mat, sweaty almost 24/7 and rockin’ a top knot…no complaints here. When I tell people what I do for a living, I get mixed emotions. Some folks are super jealous and wish they had my liberal schedule and freedom to travel. Others have felt bad for me and some have said, “ohhhhh, that’s okay”, I’m not sure why. And some think that being a yoga teacher isn’t considered working. I’m here today to tell you it is very much a job. One that, like any occupation, presents both upsides and downsides to it. Behold, the truths of a full-time yoga teacher!
PRO: I really do have the freedom to travel. Oh, man do I ever! That’s one of the hugest perks of my job. Yogis are travelers. For many of us, it is an innate need to explore the planet. When one chooses to pack up for an adventure, he or she subs their classes out and doesn’t need to worry about pesky emails. It’s a luxury. SIDE CON: No paid time off. You’re a bit broke upon return, but usually, it is well freaking worth it.
CON: I smell most of the time. This morning Nicole asked me about some of the “cons” of teaching yoga and I replied with, “I can get stinky”. Apparently, she translated this into me blowing farts out all day long – hence our main image. That isn’t the case, but I lol’d hard enough to use the photo regardless. Perhaps for some that is the case, but I was more or less talking about the effects of teaching in 105-degree heat along with some days having up to five classes. Homegirl gets sweaty and stanky. Trust me, natural deodorant doesn’t even begin to take the edge off, it’s not even an option to use.
PRO: Free yoga classes and even sometimes continued education are part of the job. This is a giant perk. As we know, yoga isn’t cheap. And being in a biz where you don’t make a shit load of money, having the option to hop in a class, when time and energy permits, is solid. SIDE CON: Not having the time or energy to take a class…but, you get your ass there however often you can.
CON: Health insurance? What’s that? And here is the hugest downside to the gig, no health insurance. Unless you’re in a managerial position, most studios do not offer this to their employees. And to top it off, you want to be an insured teacher so tack that onto the bill as well.
PRO: You dive into a healthier lifestyle and shit changes for you. When I first started my yoga teacher training (YTT) I had just quit smoking. However, since the individual leading my YTT was so intense, made me cry and yelled a lot, I picked it up again in the middle of it. After several months and a move to different studios, I was able to kick the habit for good. That wasn’t the only thing I quit. Most meats, processed foods, sodas and certain beauty products were goners as well. I didn’t intentionally seek out things to quit, you’re just so exposed to information and a lifestyle that is much more health conscious that it sometimes just happens organically.
CON: Sometimes you teach with an injury. It’s a total drag when this occurs. You’re tempted to show poses and get your body into positions when you know you shouldn’t when you know it’s going to hurt. I’m guilty of letting the gang know I’m injured and announce that I may not show everything, but then I do. It’s hard not to because you want to show it correctly, so students do it correctly. They teach you in YTT to use a student to as an example for postures, but the temptation to demo is always there. Tiger balm, heating pads, and ice bags are your friend.
PRO: Sometimes it keeps you from drinking too much the night before classes and getting totally hammered. Just last weekend I was at a wedding having a freaking blast! Drinks and dancing were on repeat. It was a water, drink, water, drink, water, drink…ok, time to stop drinking kind of night. Get home, chug more water, down some Alieve and pray to the partying Gods that you don’t feel like complete shit the next morning. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t. Winning!)
CON: It ALWAYS sucks to teach with a hangover. Oh my God, it sucks so hard you don’t even know. There is zero desk to hide behind, no sick day to be taken. The show must go on, smelling like booze or not, there is a job to be done. You want to avoid this situation at all costs.
PRO: I get to tune into my breathing every day. Holy shit, this is major since meditation is a must for me. It’s my daily dose of Valium. At the beginning and end of each class, we sit or lay and we breathe. Luckily for me, I get to join in on the tuning in.
CON: No matter what, you have to be on, even when you’re the furthest thing from being on. Just like the dreaded hangover, if you’re having an emotional day, you need to put it aside, pull it together and teach a damn good class no matter what. I can count on one hand over the past seven years of teaching, I’ve rocked up to the studio with tears flowing because, well, shit happens. Luckily, people in this industry are exceptionally compassionate and kind. They’re always there to help you pull it together, offer a hug and help get your shit in order before class time begins.
PRO: I meet some of the coolest and kindest people on the fucking planet. Both those I work with and those I teach. As I mentioned, it’s an incredibly kind tribe. I am very fortunate and grateful to be a part of this community in one of the best cities in the country. Chicago yogis bring it in the cool ass people department.
CON: You can get into a teaching funk. Ugh! This sucks. Maybe once a year or so, a funk can set in. I need to be very careful to not get stuck in it because my teaching can suffer from it. Luckily for me, I have the support system I need to get me out of it and the honesty of my higher-ups to give valuable feedback when it’s really, really needed. I recently pulled myself out of one and I feel like a revived teacher. It’s invigorating!
PRO: You get to be extremely creative and expressive on a daily basis. Each class needs a sequence. Besides the one set format I teach, I must come up with new ideas to teach my classes on a daily basis. It can be a lot of pressure especially when you have regulars, so you need to spice it up and keep it interesting. Plus, music plays a huge role. You gotta have a good playlist. As a teacher, I need to create not just a class, but an experience for my folks on the mat.
CON: It can wreak havoc on your skin. This one is a bummer. I have had some skin issues due to the heat and sweat over the past few years. It can definitely take a toll. It’s important to stay super hydrated as well as having a clean face so you have to try to wash up after and in between classes. SIDE PRO: I have really gotten into amazing face products and masks. It has definitely helped up my regiment.
PRO: You get to wear yoga clothes every day. Who doesn’t want to wear cozy clothes 24/7? Plus, it is so fun to accessorize. Legwarmers, turbans, and malas oh my! Your outfit can say a lot about your personality. Are you more sporty, more spiritual, bohemian? Are you an all-black attire type of teacher? I’m a happy medium of all black and bohemian. Depends on my mood.
CON: You get to wear yoga clothes every day. The attire can sometimes get exhausting, I’d say especially in the summer and here is why. In the winter you can conceal your cute tush under a sweater or jacket. During the summer, your best option is to wrap a long-sleeved shirt around your waist or swing your messenger bag behind you. Why would one do that you ask? Because yoga pants are like wet dreams. They hug your butt perfectly and as much as I love my cute behind, getting whistled at and having some dude on a bike yell, “nice ass sweetie”, can be infuriating and make me want to throw a stick in their spokes. Plus, sometimes I just want to wear a GD pair of jeans and a v-neck on the daily.
PRO: My body feels good! With the exception of occasional soreness and my average physical ailments, I feel good and fit! Do I have the perfect body? No. Am I, for the most part, happy with it and don’t complain of major aches and pains? Yes! When I teach and I am not assisting, I am showing the postures and am often doing the practice along with my students as a demo and for encouragement. This aspect of the job keeps my body in motion and often void of major issues. No complaints there.
CON: I live in my car. I drive an orange, yes orange, Prius and I bet peeps see me zigzagging across the city all week long. A good amount of time is spent in my vehicle, hence the nomadic nature of the job. I don’t mind it so much and I do get a good laugh when people sprint to the corner to flag me down thinking I’m a cab driver, but parking can get costly. Same with the occasional city ticket.
PRO: I do what I love. I know what it feels like to not do what I love and I don’t like that feeling. I’m not good at doing that. When I love what I do, it lights my fire and gives me passion. I love teaching something I believe in, I love talking to people I meet in the studio, I love the idea of a healthy mind and body, I love the energy of a classroom, I love my job. I’m really happy that I get to say that. EXTRA PRO: I’m a student just as much as I am a teacher. My students and fellow teachers have so much to offer and often share a wealth of knowledge and ideas.
CON – YET BIGGEST PRO: You get rich in a very non-monetary way. You can make decent money and be good to go, but personally, I don’t find myself getting rich anytime soon from teaching yoga. It’s not the most lucrative of businesses to be in, but and this is a big but, you get rich from serving others. I know this sounds freaking cheesy. I thought so too when I first heard it and even when I just wrote it, but it’s true. Helping those who have injuries, certain diseases or neurological issues (like my mom or my client with severe ADD), those who are sad and need a safe space, or those who want to get sweaty and have fun – all of these individuals are seeking something. I’m just really happy that I get to be one of the many individuals who help those people find what they are seeking on the mat. It’s a pleasure.
That’s it, that’s what my life as a yoga teacher is like. Going on my eighth year of teaching and have no intentions of switching careers anytime soon.
Here is some yoga from around the world:
Sleeping Bear Dunes, MI
Wine Glass Bay, Tasmania
Playa Blanca, Colombia
Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Love it. Live it. Share it.